So Bruce Arians would have had us believe.
But after serving a three-game NFL suspension for violating the league's COVID-19 protocols, Brown was back with the Bucs on Monday. And Arians' doesn't "give a s***" what you or anybody else thinks about it.
Arians' evolving stance on Antonio Brown
"Yeah, it's not gonna happen," Arians said of signing Brown in March 2020. ... "I just know him and it’s not a fit in our locker room."
But Tom Brady generally gets what Tom Brady wants. And Brady — who'd briefly played with Brown in New England before the Patriots released him in the aftermath of those rape allegations — wanted the perennial Pro Bowl receiver in his receiving corps.
So the Bucs signed Brown to a one-year deal — after he served his eight-game NFL ban for pleading no-contest to felony burglary conveyance and misdemeanor battery of a moving truck driver. The driver in that incident told a 911 dispatcher that an allegedly stoned Brown threw a rock at his truck, then physically attacked him during a delivery at his Hollywood, Florida home.
Arians: Brown screws up and 'he's gone'
Upon signing Brown, Arians insisted that there would be no more second chances in Tampa Bay. "He screws up one time, he’s gone," Arians told Football Morning in America's Peter King in 2020.
Brown didn't screw up that season. Meanwhile, he scored a touchdown in Tampa Bay's Super Bowl win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bucs re-signed him during the offseason.
Brown screws up
2021 hasn't gone so smoothly. Brown did indeed screw up.
He was one of three former and current Bucs players suspended by the NFL for three weeks for violating the NFL's COVID-19 protocols. Brown's former personal chef Steven Ruiz accused him of paying for a fake COVID-19 vaccine card, and the NFL leveled the suspension after conducting an investigation. In addition to being a federal crime, possessing a fake card and lying to the NFL about one's vaccination status is also a violation of the league's health and safety protocols.
Which brings us to Monday.
Arians doesn't 'give a s***' about his critics
Brown's three-game suspension is over. Arians and the Bucs faced a decision on whether to keep Brown, who was back to his Pro Bowl pace with 29 catches for 418 yards with four touchdowns in five games before being sidelined with an ankle injury early in the season.
The Bucs, meanwhile, are fresh off an embarrassing 9-0 shutout to the New Orleans Saints on "Sunday Night Football" that saw them lose top receiver Chris Godwin to an ACL tear. They're in a battle for playoff positioning with their eyes set on another Super Bowl. Would Arians live up to his vow to release Brown if he "screws up?"
Of course not.
Brown is back with the Bucs and will presumably play next Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. As is safety Mike Edwards, who was likewise suspended for violating the league's COVID-19 protocols. Arians had a blunt message for his critics who pointed to his previous stance on Brown's supposed probationary status with the Bucs.
"I could give a s*** what they think," Arians told reporters on Monday. "Only thing I care about is this football team and what’s best for us."
It also appears that the terms of Arians' original stance have changed.
"The history has changed since that statement," Arians continued, per The Athletic's Greg Auman. "A lot of things went on last year that I was very proud of him, and I made a decision this was best for our football team."
Ignore the part about Brown's history somehow changing because of a 16-game stint of playing football in Tampa. The "best for our football team" part is what matters here.
NFL football is big business. Winning is good for business. Brown can contribute to that cause. So it doesn't matter if Brown violated league rules and social norms while risking the health and safety of his teammates and those around him.
It didn't matter before that Brown was accused of sexually assaulting multiple women. Just like it didn't matter that he rescinded a not-guilty plea to battering a truck driver making a delivery to his home.
For Brown, business is still boomin' with little regard to his off-field transgressions. It will continue to boom as long as he can play football at a high level. And Arians — in his typically blunt fashion — doesn't care what you think bout it.